Birdie burgers

Walt’s East rewards fans at the Wichita Open’s Famed Hole No. 17

Written by Kim Dugger Attwater

Every time a golfer makes a birdie on legendary hole No. 17 at the Wichita Open, Walt’s East Wichita hands out coupons for a free cheeseburger and fries. Thousands of burgers later, owner Larry Doss still enjoys the spectacle.

The businessman in Larry Doss believes that giving away thousands of cheeseburgers each year at the Wichita Open’s famous hole No. 17 is a good investment.

“I have been in business 51 years,” Doss, the owner of Walt’s East Wichita, said. “Where am I going to get that kind of advertisement for the money? No way.”

The fun-loving side of Doss just enjoys the spectacle.

“They’re all happy and cheering. They put on ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise.’ It’s just a fun party.”

The tradition started 15 years ago, when Doss and his good friend Roy Turner, the golf tournament’s director, were talking about ways to promote the event. The way it works is this: On the last day of the tournament, each time a golfer makes a birdie on hole No. 17, coupons for a free cheeseburger and fries are handed out there.

“We’ve had as many as 14 or 15 birdies,” Doss said.

Thanks to Walt’s and other sponsors of hole No. 17, it’s become the most popular spot on the Korn Ferry Tour (a developmental tour for the PGA) with double-decker, wrap-around seating and a crowd primed for a good time.

“I feel very honored to be part of it,” Doss said, quickly adding that the tournament’s success “has everything to do with Roy Turner and (assistant director) Debbie Burch. If not for them, it would not be here today.”

As for the free cheeseburgers, Doss figures recipients will be hooked once they come in to collect. Tucked behind Sprouts at the corner of Central and Rock, Walt’s East is known for its laid-back atmosphere and generous food, drinks and service. There’s a lot more than burgers on the menu but they’re pretty amazing, being made from a secret “family grind” of beef cuts, prepared on one of the few remaining cast-iron grills around and served with hand-cut fries.

At last month’s Open, Doss’ niece, Sophie Pickett, helped hand out the cheeseburger coupons as a member of the Wichita State University dance team (a donation to the dance team followed). As usual, Doss’ wife, Judy; daughter, Heather; and son-in-law, Jeff, pitched in.

The Dosses have been around for the entire evolution of hole No. 17, including the annual caddy races up the fairway and nearly a score of green VIP chalets.

“There were times when we’ve had 200 people a day” claiming their free cheeseburgers, Doss said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

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